Damilola trial witness and mother 'ran up £4,000 bill at hotel'

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The Independent Online

The 14-year-old schoolgirl who allegedly saw the killing of Damilola Taylor ran up a hotel bill of £4,133 in just one week while in a witness protection scheme with her mother, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The girl, the main prosecution witness in the trial of four boys accused of stabbing 10-year-old Damilola with a broken bottle in south London in November 2000, was thrown out of the hotel in the middle of the night at the end of the week after being blamed for starting a fire in her room.

In that time, she and her mother had spent thousands of pounds of public money in bar bills, food, telephone calls, the hotel leisure club and room service extras, the jury was told.

The girl and her mother were then placed in a private flat where the rent, which should have been £381.87, jumped to £ 1,341.98 because a telephone had been plugged in against the wishes of the police. When detectives provided the girl with a mobile telephone she sold it, as she did a Sony Walkman lent by Police Constable, Carolyn Crooks.

The court heard that PC Crooks, who had conducted most of the police interviews with the girl, later had to take her to hospital after she became drunk on cider. She also arranged counselling sessions.

The jury was told by Baroness Mallalieu QC, appearing for one of the four defendants, that the girl "was an attention seeker with serious behavourial problems" which resulted in her exclusion from one school. Her school record included violence, truancy and suspected theft.

Lady Mallalieu said the girl and her mother had been put by the police at the Selsdon Park Hotel in Surrey at a rate of £79 a night for bed, breakfast and dinner. But within seven nights the bill for one room was £2,090 and £2,040 for the other. The bills were sent to PC Crooks.

There were hundreds of telephone calls – 60 from one room in one day, including one for which the bill came to £246.40. The girl said she was bored, and had been calling friends.

The charge for liquor served to one room for one day was £58, and the wine bill for another was £33. The supplementary cost for food in one day was £74. On one occasion, she ordered room service sandwiches and cokes at 4.35am, at a cost of £33.

"You have been taking people for a complete ride, haven't you?" Lady Mallalieu asked the girl. "No, I haven't," she said. Asked to explain the high bills, she said: "I am stuck in a hotel and I am not allowed to go out into the world."

Two brothers, aged 16, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old, deny murder, manslaughter and assault with intent to rob. The case continues.